The “Arab Spring”-- the new sensational shorthand employed by frenzied observers and scholars to describe the massive cry for freedom in the Middle East-- has shown not only the cruel nature of the Arab state in its treatment of ordinary citizens, now constantly on display on Arab satellite TV stations, new media outlets, and press reports, but also its humiliating treatment of Arab intellectuals. As painful and positively nauseating as it is to see this reflexive practice of torturing and terrorizing protestors, it is much more immediately comprehensible and a little less complex than wha
Essays and Features
Can one understand the experience of being a prisoner without ever being in a prison cell? This question might seem strange at first, but those who have met and talked with the family members of political prisoners in Syria will definitely know the answer. In a recent article, my friend and a colleague, Yassin al-Hajj Salih (in An Anahar Literary Supplement, June 27, 2004), accurately describes life inside prison, calling for bringing the prison experience into the light, in all its different aspects, until nothing remains unknown or overburdened with suppressed memory.
When you think back on your childhood, what is the first thing that strikes you?
Arab-American literature was already growing by leaps and bounds in the late 1990s, but the Sept. 11, 2001 hijacking attacks fueled an upsurge of interest in all things Arab and Muslim and helped broaden the mainstream appeal of poetry and prose by American authors of Arab descent. More Arab-American writers are getting published, and their work is finding its way into more anthologies of women’s writing and other postcolonial collections, albeit slowly.
The widespread unrest that has gripped the Middle East in recent months came as a shock, even to those of us who follow the region closely from afar. This is not so much because the events were unforeseeable or impossible, but rather because it was difficult to create a mental image of a successful massive popular uprising, much less several of them at once. Most likely out of despair, we had come to believe in the sadistic efficacy of ruling families and their dreaded Mukhabarat. Many of these leaders, if they may be so-called, have held the reins of power for several decades w
Many visitors to Damascus today are amazed to see how the practice of veiling has become so widespread, especially when compared to twenty or thirty years ago. It is as if the veil has imprinted the Syrian capital with its image. This is the case in the city’s streets and markets, its restaurants and parks, its schools and universities, its public offices and private companies, not to mention the homes that confine women within their walls in the name of the veil.
During the past 16 years of Al Jadid, I have not once allowed the personal to intrude upon the pages of this magazine. However, I am making an exception to reflect on the loss of my wife, Samira Chalala, who was killed as she was crossing the street on her way home from work on February 24th, 2010.
The December 2009 issue of Qantara, the Paris-based Institut du Monde Arabe’s magazine of Arab culture, is devoted almost exclusively to a reassessment of the current predicament of Christians in the Arab world. Whereas in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Christians found themselves at the forefront of the Arab nationalist movement and were instrumental in helping significant portions of the Arab world to appropriate and benefit from modern political, cultural and artistic developments, today the case could not be more different.
Michael Suleiman and Evelyn Shakir, who passed away within weeks of each other last spring, left behind legacies of dedication and intellectual achievement that will be long remembered. As scholars and writers of distinction, each made a significant impact on the field of Arab-American studies. And each offered inspiring visions of what Arab America has offered and what it might become.
I take my title from an essay by Salman Rushdie, in which he reflects on the need many expatriates, exiles, and just plain emigrants feel to look over their shoulder at the land that they have left behind and that now seems lost to them. And, if they’re writers, to try to recreate it in the literature they produce.